Published on April 30th, 2023 | by MuzikScribe0
Chucky Smash [The Legion]: Bringing It Back
Now let’s hop right into this latest project, The Taking of Pelham 123 — Conceptually, what does that title represent both to and for you?
Thank you for this interview, I humbly appreciate the opportunity first and foremost!
…The Taking of Pelham 123, conceptually, was perfect for me personally for my solo debut. We, The Legion, have been representing and a part of Hip Hop for a long time. We had a concept to do some movie themed releases, so we dropped 3 The Bronx Way and Molecules did Bronx Tale. So my contribution is TOP 123! Diceman will have a movie themed release as well. The title is fitting for me because the #6 train, which is the Pelham line here in NYC, is a train I rode my whole life. Being an avid Graffiti writer and fan, as well as a b-boy, that tied in as well. The element of it all just fit.
How then does The Taking of Pelham 123 either differ and / or compare to what your fans / followers already both know and love you for as 1/3 of The Legion?
This album allowed me the freedom to express my voice, with some help and collabs, of course, over our original Legion flavor. It differs because we all have different styles, but managed to combine it all when we record together. However, on Pelham I was able to navigate and rock primarily in my old school and b-boy vibe and do whatever I wanted! Lol. Which was nice! It was definitely a challenge because I’m used to having those 2 giants on the songs with me, but it was fun.
As a lyricist, when you sit down to pen your rhymes where do you draw your inspiration from?
When I sit down and write it’s usually inspired and prompted by the mode of the track. I could write about what’s going on in the world sometimes. But it usually is how the track vibes. I do have a book bag of rhymes just because I like to write in general.
What even prompted your decision to go solo?
What prompted this solo album was our movie music concepts and very good friend of ours, Pritt [Kalsi] / kingofthebeats. He pushed me and encouraged me to do the record. He also pressed and distributed it through kingofthebeats.com.
Does this project signify an actual break-up of The Legion?
This record in no way, shape or form is a break up of The Legion.
Reflecting, tell me your whole inception into music — When did you first become interested in it? And, how did it all begin for Chucky Smash?
My inception in music comes from my family. My mother is from Jamaica, and grew up in Harlem. My father [RIP] is from Harlem. I have one younger brother, Ralo Square, who was with me everywhere. I got into Hip Hop in the Bronx by hanging with my cousins, Artie and Kathy, around 1977 or ‘78. They took me to my first jams where the DJ’s were spinning the breaks. I just soaked it all up from the breaking to the writing on the wall and the emceeing. I dabbled in it all.
Now you’re a native of The Bronx, New York, correct? So growing up in “the Boogie Down,” who all did / do you consider to be your strongest musical influences?
I was inspired by it all! Everything was usually on a cassette tape that you played in your Box. I grew up in Zulu Nation territory near Bronx River projects at first, then moved to Lafayette Soundview section. Everything was Cold Crush, Fantastic, Furious, Funky 4 Plus, Treacherous, Harlem World, etcetera…I could go on and on.
…With being influenced by those pioneers on our music is a lot of echo. That echo chamber was a thing in the Jam era. We definitely use a lot of echo and delay. If you listen to our song “Legion Groove,” that is a perfect example to display how we were influenced by them. I was able to also paint the picture on Pelham with my song “Graffiti” talking about the Jams.
In having said that, how do you classify your overall sound and / or style?
Our sound is classified as Boom Bap! Like T La Rock on “It’s Yours,” boom boom boom Bap ba boom Bap. The Golden Era sound. Beats, bass lines, horns, snares, chops all that!
Where does your moniker originally derive from?
My name Chucky Smash 💥 is my super hero name. I’ve had many, but this one stuck with our Superhero theme. My first MC name was Peanut. Lol! Then I was MC Wilkes C, because I played a lot of b-ball and my real name is Jumal. There was a player on the L.A. Lakers named Jamaal Wilkes. Then finally, a combination of Charlie Brown, good ole Chuck “the Brown“ version with grief, and just smashing everything seemed to fit me.
What particular string of events actually led to your initial linking up with both DiceMan & Molecules and the ultimate formation of The Legion?
Molecules and I have been childhood friends since sandbox days. He was originally a DJ and included me with a few crews he was affiliated with. Then eventually it became him and I, as Cut Master Marvy D and Wilkes C. Fast forward to the beginning of The Legion with my brother Ralo Square. The Legion was always a mob of us. The Diceman, who is from Bronxdale projects which is in our same neighborhood, was a part of our Legion crew. As I said, we was always crew deep and had multiple crews which made up the Legion for”we are many. “ So we been collectively together since 1989.
When and how exactly did Dres of Black Sheep fame enter into the fold?
My brother, Ralo Square, and Chi Ali went to the same HS, and through their friendship Ralo became his co pilot / hype man at shows. Chi had a brother that was very tight with Molecules ironically, and through hanging out, moving around with Chi we met Dres. Molecules ended up going on the road with Black Sheep as they was on the rise. When they were in town, we was always hanging out, vibing, free-styling, etcetera. While doing shows, Dres sometimes would bring Molecules out at shows to freestyle. Over time, Molecules started to get a buzz. An opportunity presented itself for Dres to start his own record label, One Love / Mercury, and had the ability to sign acts. He was going to sign Molecules solo, but he, Molecules, wanted it to be a crew deal, so they signed us as The Legion, and a dope R&B female group from the West Coast, Emage.
The group’s debut, Theme + Echo = Krill [Polygram] , was solid, but was lackluster in terms of its commercial performance — Why do you feel that is?
Our debut, Theme+Echo=Krill, was gritty, street and hardcore. I’m not into making excuses, but shortly after Dres got his One Love deal, Polygram / Mercury started to move away from the Hip Hop and we were a casualty of this movement because that was no longer their focus. We received much underground props for “Jingle Jangle,” but I felt we got slighted with “Legion Groove,” our second single. We always had a dope song, “Rest in Peace,” that was well received, but we needed the support to have it go further. Theme represents the sound, Echo represents the voices and Krill is the result…Crazy Ill, our slang! We have been questioned on the title before. Lol!
You all finally returned in 2019 with your sophomore collection, Three The Bronx Way, why such a lengthy delay between efforts?
After T+E=K album, we had a Fat Beats’ release, a single “Street Thing” / “Caught Up.” Molecules went on the road with Justin Timberlake and P!nk, and some other big name acts. Diceman worked on scouting music talent, as well as honing Mic Skills (Power of Now). I had a nice run as a radio co-host with our show DJ Bill Skillz on WVKR 91.3. Real life, and taking care of our families as proud fathers.
Switching gears here, what exactly do you want people to get from your music?
What I want people to get from The Taking of Pelham 123 is some solid, head banging Hip Hop. I don’t stray from our Boom Bap format. Beats and Rhymes with my people for the people!
If you could collaborate with anyone artist, living or dead, who would it be and why?
If I could collaborate with someone, it would have been James Brown. He is the One! The Funky Drummer, Funky President, etcetera. I mean, he helped birth our Hip Hop culture! He would be the one. As far as someone alive it would be DJ Premier, Preemo! He is just a master of the beats, period.
If you could play any venue in the world, which one would you choose and why?
If I could play any venue in the world, it would be Madison Square Garden just because I’m a native New Yorker. Super Bowl would be nice. Lol!
On a more serious note, are you happy with the current state of Hip Hop?
On a serious note, I could say I exist with the current state of Hip Hop because I’m still a part of it. However, the popular sound and culture of it does not have much substance. However, I embrace and adapt and understand that things change and generations change. I do wish they would acknowledge on a higher level the originators who are still alive.
What do you feel has (so far) and will continue to be the key to your longevity?
The key to my longevity and The Legion longevity is consistency. We have managed to remain consistent with our sound no matter how long of a gap of time goes by.
Do you have any other outside / additional (future) aspirations, maybe even completely away from music?
Other than music, I take the backyard grill seriously. I go by Brown Chucky and enjoy cooking, grilling and smoking food. That is my other passion.
To date, what has been your biggest career moment(s), at least thus far anyway?
I think to date one of the biggest moments while being a part of the industry was being able to perform at the ‘94 NBA All-Star Game in Minneapolis. That was probably one of the dopest things to be a part of.
What’s an average day like for you?
An average day for me is being an Uber Dad! Lol. I have 4 children who keep me busy. When I can, I like to ride my bicycle and workout a little.
Please discuss how you interact with and respond to fans…
What is your favorite part about this line of work? Your least favorite? And, why?
My favorite part of this work is being in the studio recording, and the song making process! My least favorite part is the politics of the industry. I’m (a) pretty reserved person, so I don’t like the b.s. that comes with the territory.
What advice would you have for someone wanting to follow in your footsteps?
Anyone looking to follow in my footsteps, I would encourage to block out all the naysayers and believe in yourself. It is very easy to get deterred when people put you down or doubt you.
Looking ahead, say five or maybe even ten years from now, where do you see yourself?
Looking ahead in the future, I would like to teach about the culture and elements of Hip Hop to those receptive that would like to learn about some of its origins. I also embrace vinyl; the Jazz, the R&B and Disco. Definitely could do some digging and DJ forums in the future.
As for the immediate, what’s next for Chucky Smash?
For the future, I plan a follow up release to my Pelham album, as well as finally getting out some new Legion music. To anyone who reads this, do checkout my Pelham 123 album. I believe you will be pleasantly surprised, it is an easy listen. Get it on all digital platforms, like Bandcamp and iTunes. And, definitely the limited collectible vinyl from kingofthebeats.com.
Is there anything I left out or just plain forgot to mention?
I forgot to mention in the interview that before we did Three The Bronx Way album, we released a full album (The) Lost Tapes album with Ill Adrenaline Records.
Any “parting” words for our readers?
Peace and blessings to all 💥